The question about which is healthier, carpeting or hard flooring, seems to be as old as, well, carpets. Do textiles trap particulates? Yes. However, anyone who has ever lived in a house with hardwood floors knows the frustration of sitting down after a day of intense sweeping and mopping only to see the dust motes dancing in the air and trails of the same highlighted in the rays of the sun across the floor. It can be enough to make you forget good manners and utter bad words.
Even now, in a time of rising interest in cheaper, alternative options, carpet represents 58.7% of flooring installations. What drives the decision for consumers between carpets and hard floors? Surprisingly, it frequently has little to do with health. A 2019 survey of flooring consumers found that durability was the number one factor for 80% of respondents, according to Consumer Reports. Other factors are aesthetics, lifestyle, ease of care, sustainability and cost to install.
With a wide range of styles, materials and prices, it can seem daunting to narrow down the choices. It is easy to find pros and cons of both carpets and hard floor options. It then becomes a matter of what fits the room use and lifestyle needs the best.
Pros and Cons
There are benefits and disadvantages to every type of flooring. Let’s review a few.
In the benefits column are:
- Comfort – Between the carpet and the pad, soft floor coverings are much more comfortable to walk, sit or lay on.
- Sound – Carpet absorbs sound, a plus when pets or children are in the house.
- Convenience – Furniture also doesn’t slide on the carpet like on hard surfaces, and it is more forgiving of skipping a day or two of vacuuming.
- Selection – There are many styles, colors, materials and weaves to satisfy any preference.
- Price – Carpet can be a much more budget-friendly option when comparing to hardwoods, stone or some tiles.
- Health – There is evidence that carpeting can cut down on allergies caused by dust mites.
Some of the disadvantages come from the nature of the material. The fibers of carpeting can act like wicks in a candle, absorbing any liquids and carrying them to the tips of the fibers. Depending upon what is spilled, this can either result in odors, bacteria growth, stains, a magnet for other dirt, or a combination of all. Additionally, too much moisture, whether from a leak, a spill, or an ill-advised attempt at cleaning, can cause mold and mildew to form in the carpet and carpet pad.
Cleaning spots or stains may require the help of a professional carpet cleaning service to prevent damage to your carpets and to maintain the manufacturer’s warranty. Treating stains effectively requires some knowledge of both the type of contaminant and the carpet material. Using the wrong solvents, cleaning materials, or cleaning methods can create a bigger problem than you started with.
Benefits of hard floors include:
- Cleaning – It is easy to spot and clean up spills as they occur.
- Resale – Resale value on homes with hardwoods are generally higher than those with carpet, although other factors affect the cost.
- Durability – Hardwood floors can last up to 100 years or more with the right care.
- Health – Some studies show that hard surfaces like tile, stone or wood can cut down on allergies.
- Aesthetics – The natural elements of wood or stone are beautiful and fit in with settings from modern to rustic.
Like carpet, hard floors have disadvantages, as well. While carpet may trap dust, hard surfaces allow it to be stirred up continuously and recirculated. That can exacerbate allergies. Tile and stone floors are notoriously hard on anything dropped on them, particularly glass. Hard surfaces are also very noisy as compared with carpeted ones.
Another mark in the con column is care. Hardwoods may need to be waxed or polished and can scratch or dent fairly easily. Moisture can warp or rot hardwoods and cause slipping issues on tile. The price of hard surface floors is generally high for real wood and stone options.
Those who are proponents of the positive health benefits of a carpet-free environment might find a 1970’s era study interesting. In 1975, there was a push in Sweden to remove all carpets from homes to reduce indoor allergens. Statistics showed that allergic reactions continued to rise instead of abate, even as carpet use declined. A similar study from 2010 in New Jersey found that schoolchildren that had carpet in their bedrooms had lower incidences of absence due to illness, as well as lower use of asthma medications. According to Architecture and Design Australia, an even more extensive study involving 18 countries found that carpets helped in dust mite allergies.
On the other hand, some studies conclude that carpet is detrimental to people with allergies. In a 2018 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health on the impact of carpet in homes on the health of the residents, the conclusion was that there was evidence in peer-reviewed literature to suggest not only could carpet cause an increase in allergens, but that it is “associated with increased risk of a number of health outcomes including mild cognitive effects, irritative symptoms, and asthma.”
There seems to be plenty of evidence that carpets are not the allergy trigger that the hard flooring industry would like you to believe. A vast range of styles, materials and budget ranges combined with the comfort and sound baffling aspects of carpeting make it a compelling choice for rooms other than kitchens, bathrooms, and basements. At the end of the day, aesthetics, comfort, and cost may be the deciding factors.
When your carpets need cleaning, choose a professional that has a history of excellent customer service and results. Safe-Dry® Carpet Cleaning is committed to keeping carpets safe for your family without the use of harsh chemicals. We use only hypoallergenic and soap-free cleaning products that help extend the life of your carpet. To find out more about our services, contact us today.